Social Work Health Care Fact Sheet

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Social Work Health Care Fact Sheet Powered By Docstoc
					                           Social Workers Speak on Health Care
                                      August 2009

   Promoting health and improving our nation’s health care system has been a priority for the social work
   profession and a topic of public discussion for many years. As costs for health services continue to rise
   for families, it is clear that significant changes to our health care system will be needed in order to close
   the gap of the nearly 47 million people without health insurance in America.

   Social workers address the range of social, emotional and environmental problems that patients bring
   with them to health and mental health systems. This fact sheet highlights key health care issues,
   positions and service needs from the social work perspective.

The Issues 1
     Health care costs for many American families and their children are not affordable, causing
     people to be without health insurance.
        In 2006, 47 million people were uninsured, an increase of 2.2 million from the previous year, largely
        due to a decline in employer-sponsored insurance.
        Since 2004, census data indicate that employer coverage has declined, but public coverage has not
        increased, resulting in sharp increases in the number of uninsured adults and children.
        The Institute of Medicine found that uninsured children and adults suffer worse health and die
        sooner than those with insurance.
     Minority and poor populations are disproportionately uninsured, but often times have the greatest
     need for health care.
        Almost 80 percent of people in America who are uninsured are US citizens, with minority and poor
        populations being disproportionately uninsured.
        Among those with health care coverage, ethnic minority groups are more likely to be enrolled in
        “lower end” health plans, which result in lower reimbursement levels and stricter limits on covered
     Lack of government oversight and regulation has made obtaining services and navigating the
     health care system more difficult.
        Health care systems have become more complex, causing barriers and challenges for individuals
        who need to access and navigate their own health care benefits.
        The ability of state and local governments to finance health care for uninsured people is most limited
        during economic downturns, as we are currently experiencing.
        States have deregulated their health care systems and have lifted regulated rate-setting mandates on
        hospitals. One result has been the eliminating of many departments of social work in hospitals.

       National Association of Social Workers. Social Work Speaks 8th Edition. Health Care, 2009-2012.
What Social Workers Believe 2
     NASW supports a national health care policy that ensures the right to universal access to a continuum of
     health and mental health care throughout all stages of the life cycle.
     Health care policy should result in the equitable delivery of services for all people in the U.S., regardless
     of financial status, race, ethnicity, disability, age, gender, sexual orientation or geographic location.
     A reformed health care system must ensure an adequate supply of qualified health professionals,
     including social workers, that can meet the needs of existing special populations such as seniors,
     children and youth, racial and ethnic minorities, and people with disabilities.
     National health care policy should promote wellness, maintain optimal health, prevent illness and
     disability and provide supportive long-term palliative and end-of-life care.
     NASW also advocates policies and practices requiring that mandated medical social work services be
     provided by qualified social workers in all health care settings.

   How Social Workers Help              3

         Social workers provide, supervise and administer services that address the range of social, emotional and
         environmental problems that patients bring with them to health and mental health settings.
         Social workers offer education and support to patients and family caregivers as they learn new skills and
         navigate the complex health care system.
         Social workers provide referral information regarding the array of community resources that may be
         available and assess patients for levels of distress, offering interventions such as counseling, problem-
         solving, skills training, and relaxation exercise.
         Geriatric social workers can be found in long-term care facilities. Home health and hospice programs
         employ social workers to provide home visits for assessment and counseling services. These social
         workers also assist patients as they cope with the long-term impact of chronic illnesses such as
         Alzheimer's disease.
         Diverse communities may rely on their social worker to help with discharge planning, adjustment to a
         mental illness or disability, provide bereavement counseling and crisis intervention services.
         All social workers are mandated abuse reporters and may coordinate care provided to victims of
         physical violence, child abuse, dependent adult abuse, and sexual assault. Health social workers may
         diagnose mental illness and substance abuse and are often involved in complex treatment coordination.
         Clinical social workers diagnose and treat mental, emotional and behavioral illnesses. They are the
         largest providers of mental health services in the country.
         Social work experts on health and health care reform include Kathy Black, PhD, MSW, Wendy
         Auslander, PhD, Stephen Gorin, PhD, MSW, Barry D. Walston, MSW, and Diane Blum, MSW.

       National Association of Social Workers. Social Work Speaks 8th Edition. Health Care, 2009-2012.
       National Association of Social Workers. Encyclopedia of Social Work. 2008.
What Social Workers are Saying

  The cost of health insurance affects the poor: "I've had patients crying in my office because they don't
  know how they're going to eat this month," said Gillian Fynn, a licensed clinical social worker for the
  clinic. "One patient told me, 'Fine, I'll give my last ten dollars for copay. I just won't eat today.'" (Aug.
  3, 2009. The Daily Californian. “Health Care Providers Struggle in Wake of Cuts.”)

  Even people with insurance can’t afford medication they need: "Many insurance companies are now
  offering to pay only a percentage of a drug. If you have to pay 25% when the price is $5,000 or $6,000
  for a prescription, that's insurmountable. People just can't afford it," said David Straseski, lead
  oncology social worker for the Oncology Alliance.” (Jul. 19, 2009.Miluakee Journal Sentinel. “Millions
  more lacking health insurance.”)

  Health care disparities impede successful health care reform: “Health care reform will only be
  successful when poverty, race, health conditions and other social factors no longer produce vast
  disparities in access and affordability of care for our nation’s residents.”-Dr. Elizabeth J.Clark, ACSW,
  MPH. (May 26, 2009. NASW Comments on Policy Option Paper #3: Financing Comprehensive Health
  Care Reform).

  Longer life spans result in increased need for access to health care: "Americans now live longer than
  ever before. Medical advances have boosted the life expectancy from less than 50 years to more than 76
  years and have greatly improved the overall health of Americans in the past century. Since people are
  living longer, however, the number of individuals who experience higher rates of illness and disability is
  expected to increase dramatically."- Lisa Yagoda, LICSW, ACSW (“Older Adults and Health
  Disparities: The Impact on Access to Care.” NASW Specialty Practice Sections Annual Bulletin
  InterSections in Practice, Volume 4, Fall 2005. ).

  Arguments against universal health care are exaggerated: “The claim that people will have to wait
  longer for appointments, procedures and certain surgeries is meant to frighten. But the reality is that
  rationing has already begun. One reason health care is so expensive is that some of us over-utilize it.
  Improving our overall health care literacy will be necessary to reduce our habit of demanding expensive
  procedures even when they may not be clinically necessary.”- Gregory McCann, LCSW
   (Jul. 20, 2009. The Gainesville Sun. (Gainesville,FL)“The debate about healthcare reform”)
Additional Resources

   To learn more about how NASW has been involved in the health care reform debate, visit

   To see what other social work organizations, including NASW chapters and schools of social work are
   doing, visit and do a keyword search.

   For consumer articles and information on how social workers help, visit “Health
   and Wellness” section.

About the National Association of Social Workers

The National Association of Social Workers (NASW), in Washington, D.C., is the largest membership
organization of professional social workers with nearly 150,000 members. It promotes, develops, and protects
the practice of social work and social workers. NASW also seeks to enhance the well-being of individuals,
families, and communities through its advocacy.


For More Information:

   Amber Moore
   NASW Communications
   (202) 336-8277